There they go again. Like the TV Land cable channel, that recycles decades-old television shows, Democrats are reprising their familiar class warfare drama in opposition to the Bush administration's tax-cutting proposals.
The central question in this debate is not whether government should decide how much money it will allow us to keep. Rather, it is how much of our money we will allow the government to spend.
President Bush has deftly fired the latest shot in the tax-cut battle at several targets, including the double taxation on dividends that stock market investors must now pay. He specifically has mentioned the unfairness of taxing twice the dividends paid to older Americans. This is a group Democrats regularly petrify by suggesting Republicans want to cut Social Security, even though it was Bill Clinton who added a tax to some Social Security checks, thereby lowering benefits.
In his speech last Tuesday (Jan. 7) to the Economic Club of Chicago, the president noted how many older people rely on dividends from investments to subsidize their retirement. He suggested freeing them from having to pay taxes on money that has already been taxed once would augment their financial security. With 55 percent of Americans, owning at least some stock (compared to only 23 percent a decade ago), the president has highlighted an issue that should be wildly popular.
Last fall, Rep. Chris Cox (R-Calif.) introduced a bill that would eliminate dividend taxes. He noted the double tax can exceed 60 percent and "even individuals whose total income is less than $28,000 lose more than half of their dividends to federal tax. "
Democrats, led by their new House Minority leader, Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, whine about the deficit, which is caused by too much spending, not too few taxes. Funny how the deficit never bothered Democrats while they were in the majority. If they care about it now, let them lead the way in reducing waste, fraud and abuse in government. Some Republicans, who are just as guilty as Democrats for binge spending, need to go on the wagon as well.
What Democrats continue to sell is a false notion that the opportunities presented by liberty are insufficient incentives for success. That is contrary to everything most of us of a certain age were taught as children.
When I was poor, making $99 per month as an Army private, working a civilian second job to pay the rent and buy food and riding to work on public transportation because I could not afford a car, I never envied the rich. I wanted to be like them. I studied how they became rich in order that I might be if not rich than at least more successful. I took college classes at night and on weekends, as my father did to improve his life. I worked hard, believing that such an ethic might allow me to have a piece of the economic pie and possibly even create new pies.
I grew up learning at home and in public school that America offered opportunities, and if I took advantage of them, I could make a good living and have a wonderful life. When faced with setbacks, such as getting fired from a job, or not being hired, or promoted in one, I was taught persistence was a better road to success than griping, despair or resignation to my "fate. "
We don't teach such things anymore. Instead, we (or at least those institutions reflecting the Democrats' philosophy) teach that anyone who is rich is robbing the poor, implying they came by their money dishonestly. This is the subtle message of the Democrats' favorite phrase "Working Americans. " It implies the well-off didn't work for their money, so they owe everyone else.
We teach that the poor are victims who cannot be expected to become un-poor, much less rich. Never should they have faith they can free themselves from their present condition, lest they not need Democratic programs and thus start voting for Republicans whose policies are more likely to emancipate the poor from their poverty, along with their own initiative.
America has until recently been a land that offered opportunity and promoted hard work. Now it penalizes success, encourages dependency among the slothful and subsidizes failure. Republicans mostly believe in the former. Democrats mostly believe in the latter. The public has another opportunity to decide which one it believes - the old rerun, or the new and better idea; class warfare, or personal responsibility, empowerment and the tax cuts and reduction in government spending that will make both possible.
(Cal Thomas hosts "After Hours " on Fox News Channel Saturdays at 11 p.m. ET. Direct all MAIL for Cal Thomas to: Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave, Suite 1500, Chicago, Ill. 60611. Readers may also leave e-mail at www.calthomas.com.)
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